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This is a growing glossary of common camera and photography terms. Feel free to add items that aren't listed by using the "edit" tab at the top of the screen.

0 to 9 Edit

  • 2-way head - A tripod head that moves along 2 axes; this design is older but is still often used in sports photography or by others using long, heavy lenses.
  • 3-way head - A tripod head that moves along 3 axes allowing the camera to be placed in just about any position relative to the tripod.
  • 35mm - A film 35mm wide with large perforations at each edge; most commonly this is used for 24×36mm frames on a roll of film wound from and subsequently back into an easy-to-load cassette.
  • 35mm equivalent - the focal length of a camera lens, scaled according to the size of the film or digital sensor relative to that of a 35mm camera.

A to Z Edit

  • actinometer - a light meter that works by actinometry.
  • actinometry - measuring light by the speed of a photo-chemical reaction.
  • adapter
  • air release - a remote control shutter release similar to a cable release, worked by air pressure - usually consisting of a piston attached to the shutter, with a rubber tube leading off to a rubber bulb which is squeezed to fire the shutter.
  • Anastigmat - marketing term for anastigmatic corrected lenses
  • aperture - An opening in a lens that controls the amount of light passing through it.
  • aperture priority - A metering method that recommends a shutter speed based on a desired aperture.
  • aspect ratio - the relative sizes of height and width to each other; e.g. of film, sensor, computer monitor / LCD or prints
  • aspherical
  • auto exposure - An in-camera exposure system that attempts to set the aperture and shutter speed (and CCD sensitivity in many digital cameras) to get the best exposure for the current lighting situation.
  • autofocus - The ability of any camera/lens to focus itself electronically to the appropriate image subject distance.
  • autographic - a feature allowing hand-written comments on the negative. 1914-1934
  • auxiliary lens - a lens that attaches to the front of another lens to change the field of view (narrower, wider) or focusing characteristics (able to focus more closely).
  • back - The back of a camera, containing the recording media.
  • Bakelite - an early form of plastic, used in camera making from the 1930s to the 1960s.
  • ball head - tripod head based around a lockable, free-moving ball.
  • barn doors
  • barrel
  • Bay I - Bayonet type I. A type of filter mount commonly used on TLRs.
  • Bay II - Bayonet type II. A type of filter mount used on some TLRs.
  • bellows
  • body cap - a cap to close the lens mount, and keep dust out of the camera when the lens is removed from the body.
  • bokeh is how a lens draws unsharp/out-of-focus image areas
  • bounce flash - reflecting a flash from a wall or ceiling (or perhaps a special flash diffusing reflector, such as a brolly) to soften the harsh shadows and contrast produced by direct flash.
  • box camera - a class of camera types, commonly shaped as cuboid boxes.
  • bulb mode ("B") - a setting which allows a camera's shutter to be opened and closed manually for the intended purpose of flash photography.
  • bracket (exposure/white balance)
  • bridge camera - originally a SLR with a fixed zoom lens, nowadays a medium-size digital wide-range zoom camera with electronic viewfinder (EVF), intermediate between the compact camera and SLR
  • brilliant finder - a very small, simple finder designed to be looked down into
  • brolly - Another name for an umbrella.
  • camera
  • camera shake - a blurring of a photo due to the camera moving - usually unintentionally.
  • camera system
  • cable release - An attachment that screws into a shutter release that allows you to trip the shutter mechanically while not otherwise touching the camera.
  • CCD - Charge-Coupled Device - a component that can be used as the light sensor in analog-electronic or digital cameras.
  • CdS - Cadmium Sulphide - a type of light meter cell.
  • center-weighted - an in-camera light-meter system that favors the center of the frame although it does take into account the rest of the frame to a lesser extent.
  • click stops - See also detents.
  • clone - equipment made, under license from original manufacturer, by another manufacturer.
  • coated - See lens coating.
  • color balance
  • color-blind - the most basic black and white photographic emulsion, sensitive to violet and blue light only.
  • colour temperature
  • compact camera
  • Compur - a brand of camera shutters, made by the F. Deckel company of Munich, Germany.
  • contact print - a print of a negative made by laying the film directly on the paper and exposing to light.
  • contrast
  • convertible lens
  • Copal - a brand of Japanese camera shutters.
  • coupled rangefinder - A rangefinder which is mechanically coupled to the focus adjustment on a lens.
  • crop - to reduce a picture to a smaller area, cutting off the edges - usually to leave a better composition.
  • cross processing - developing a film using a process intended for a different kind of film - i.e. using the "wrong" process; done for the special effects this produces, such as wild colour changes.
  • data back - a camera back for film cameras that imprints (or burns) information onto a film frame.
  • dark slide - a thin box, designed to hold sheet film so that it can loaded into a camera (typically a view camera) without exposing the film to light. A sliding cover can be opened whilst in the camera to allow the film to be exposed to the lens; sometimes this cover is itself referred to as a dark slide.
  • depth of field - The range of distances (from near to far) within which a scene will be considered to be "in focus" (within which the circle of confusion will be acceptably small)
  • detents - Positions on a moving dial (e.g. shutter speed or aperture dial) from which movement needs some friction - "click stops".
  • diaphragm - The mechanism in a camera lens that creates a variable aperture.
  • digital zoom - a method of zooming via cropping and upsizing instead of physical lens adjustment
  • diopter - An optical adjustment that allows someone to adjust the viewfinder's focus to their vision; also a unit for measuring lens strength.
  • digital camera
  • double exposure - intentional or unintentional action of exposing the same film frame twice.
  • DSLR - Digital Single Lens Reflex camera
  • element - An individual piece of glass within a lens.
  • E-TTL -
  • EVF - Electronic View Finder: LCD-preview screen that is just visible through an ocular, used in digital bridge cameras
  • everset shutter - A shutter that is tripped by the sole energy of the finger pressing the release. It does not need cocking but cannot provide high speeds and needs the release pressing harder than a cocking shutter.
  • EXIF - a specification for digital image file storage
  • exposure - The combination of shutter speed, aperture, film sensitivity, and light used to create a single photograph.
  • exposure compensation - increasing or decreasing the exposure to compensate for dark or light subjects which may cause a light meter to indicate the "wrong" exposure.
  • exposure value (EV)
  • extension tubes - tubes used to move the lens further from the focal plane, to allow closer focusing.

F to K Edit

  • f-stop - The measure of the aperture setting on a lens.
  • field camera - A large format camera, slightly stripped down to make it more portable.
  • field of view - The diagonal measure of the part of a scene that is visible with a given lens.
  • Film Speed - a measure of the sensitivity of a film to light.
  • filter
  • filter rings
  • filter thread - a screw-thread inside the front of a lens to allow filters to be attached.
  • film advance - Mechanism for moving the film from one spool to another, usually one frame at a time.
  • film plane - The plane onto which light entering a lens is focused.
  • film speed - light sensitivity of film
  • finder - Short for viewfinder.
  • fisheye - Fisheye lenses have a very wide field of view, usually around 180 degrees.
  • fixed-focus - see focus free
  • flare - occurs when light enters the lens that isn't part of the image and then subsequently hits the camera's film or digital sensor.
  • flash
  • Flashbulbs - single-use bulbs for flash photography
  • flash meter
  • flash sync - The manner by which a flash is fired while the shutter is open.
  • flash trigger
  • fluid head - A tripod head often used in video production that attempts to dampen sudden movements to ensure smooth panning.
  • focal plane - The flat plane onto which a lens focuses its image.
  • focal plane shutter - A shutter, usually consisting of fabric or metal "curtains", that operates at the focal plane (right in front of the film).
  • focus - to focus means to adjust a lens or its optical elements for achieving a sharp image of subjects in a certain distance from the camera
  • focus free - A camera is focus free (or fixed focus) when its lens and all of its optical elements are in a fixed position. No focusing for the subject is possible (or in sales talk, none is required), as the depth of field is assumed to be sufficient for anything other than a "close-up", at least for small magnifications.
  • focus rail
  • focus screen - it's a common focusing method for plate cameras to put a satinized glass plate into the camera's back instead of a film plate. After adjusting the lens for getting the image's subject sharp the glass plate can be replaced by the film plate for making the exposure.
  • Fogging - degradation of a photograph caused by stray light leaking onto the film or sensor, or by faults in developing, usually resulting in white areas on the final (positive) image.
  • frame counter - A mechanism for recording the number of exposures made or for calculating the number of exposures remaining on a roll of film or memory card.
  • front curtain sync - In an SLR, firing of the flash at the moment when the front curtain is open.
  • front cell - that part of a lens that is set in front of the shutter
  • front cell focussing - focussing the camera by turning the front cell (as opposed to moving the entire lens assembly [via bellows or helicoid] or moving the film plane [as in the Mamiya Six and the Ensign commando)
  • fungus - a fungus that can grow between lens elements resulting in feathery or hazing damage to a lens
  • GOST - A measurement of film speed used in the former Soviet Union.
  • grain
  • ground glass back - a focusing system using a frosted-glass plate, which replaces the film during focusing and composition.
  • grain focuser
  • greyscale image - an image made up only of shades of grey, i.e. a (so called) black-and-white image.
  • guide number - a measure of the power of a flash gun.
  • hand camera
  • half-frame
  • handle mount flash
  • HDR - High Dynamic Range imaging; processing images to a higher dynamic range of luminances, increasing the difference between light and dark.
  • histogram
  • hot lights
  • hot shoe - an accessory shoe with built-in flash sync contacts.
  • image stabilization
  • infinity focusing
  • instant camera - a camera producing finished pictures, directly from the camera within a short time of taking.
  • instant film
  • instant-return mirror - a mirror in an SLR that automatically returns to the viewing position after an exposure, and so restoring the view through the viewfinder; true instant-return mirrors function whatever the position of the shutter button (raised or pressed)
  • isochromatic - black and white emulsion with low sensitivity to deep red color.
  • isoorthochromatic - a variant of the black and white orthochromatic emulsion with equalized sensitivity to green and yellow light.
  • isopanchromatic - a variant of the black and white panchromatic emulsion with equalized sensitivity to green and yellow light.

L to Q Edit

  • landscape format - rectangular pictures oriented with the long edge horizontal.
  • large format - A film format larger than medium format, in which negatives are loaded one at a time rather than in rolls.
  • leaf shutter - A type of shutter mechanism that uses small metal blades in a leaf pattern.
  • LED - an electronic lamp device.
  • Leica nipple
  • lens - One or more glass elements used to focus an image onto the focal plane.
  • lens barrel - The tube that contains the lens elements.
  • lens cap - Hard, protective cover that clips over the front lens element when the lens is not in use.
  • lens coating - A microscopic antireflection coating applied to lenses that reduces flare and increases contrast. All modern camera lenses are coated.
  • lens hood - a shade fitted around the lens to exclude stray light.
  • lens mount
  • lens speed - refers to the largest aperture available on a lens. Anything f2 or under is fast; f5.6 is slow.
  • light box
  • light leaks - Any light, other than that focused through the lens, that gets inside of the camera body.
  • light meter - A device that measures light to determine the proper exposure settings for a scene.
  • light-value system
  • lomography - movement that promotes (and exploits) the use of Lomo cameras (predominantly the LC-a) and a "shoot from the hip" attitude.
  • loupe - a small, mounted magnifying glass; sometimes fitted in cameras (e.g. TLRs) to magnify the focusing screen.
  • macro
  • magazine camera - old type of box camera for plates or film sheets
  • medium format - A film format larger than 35mm but smaller than large format (typically 120 film) wound onto spools.
  • metering - measuring the amount of light for an exposure.
  • microprism - a focusing aid that may be built in to a focusing screen
  • mirror box
  • mirror lens - a lens using curved mirrors in place of one or more solid glass lenses; this can dramatically reduce the physical length of a long focal-length lens by "folding" the light path.
  • mirror lockup - A feature on some SLRs that allows the reflex mirror to be locked in the up position to eliminate (mirror slap) vibration.
  • mirror slap - The vibration caused by the mirror in an SLR flipping out of the way before a shot.
  • monopod - A one-legged camera support.
  • multicoated - See lens coating.
  • multiple exposure - creative/experimental technique
  • neutral density filter (ND filter)- A filter used to reduce the amount of light entering the lens.
  • noise / noise reduction (sensor)
  • normal lens - the "normal" - or "standard" lens for any film format has a focal length the size of the diagonal of the format (for 35mm, a "normal" lens is about 50mm).
  • off shoe/camera flash - flash photography when the strobe is not mounted directly on the camera - can result in a more natural lighting effect.
  • ocular - an eyepiece lens.
  • optical axis - The straight line which passes through the centers of curvature of the lens surfaces.
  • orientation sensor - A sensor that detects orientation; e.g. horizontal or vertical.
  • orthochromatic - a type of black and white film with low sensitivity to orange and red light.
  • orthopanchromatic - a type of black and white film with equalized sensitivity to red, yellow and green light.
  • OEM - original equipment manufacturer
  • OTF - Off the film; a during-the-exposure light metering method.
  • Panchromatic - sensitive to all colours of light.
  • panorama - a normal height but very wide image, of say, a landscape or large group of people - see Panorama camera.
  • parallax - An effect in photography where the image seen in the viewfinder is not the same as the image seen through the lens, due to the viewfinder being slightly apart from the lens.
  • parallax error - the positional difference between what the photographer sees and what the camera takes. This is most evident in close up work when using a viewfinder that does not look through the taking lens.
  • passport camera - a camera designed to take more than one similar image, for use in ID documents and cards.
  • photographica
  • photography
  • prosumer - a term denoting mass-market "consumer" equipment with "professional" level features or specification
  • point-and-shoot - Camera designed to eliminate the user's need to make focus and exposure settings.
  • polarizer - A filter that only allows light with a specific orientation to pass through it.
  • Portrait format - rectangular pictures with the long edge oriented vertically.
  • portrait lens - a prime lens a little longer than a "standard" lens; in 35mm terms this is usually in the 85mm to 135mm range.
  • pressure plate - a plate in the camera back that presses the film flat in the focal plane
  • prime lens - a lens that is set to a single focal length
  • prismatic finder - the most common kind of viewfinder style found on SLRs. The viewing image is bounced through a path tracing a figure 4 through the prism turning the viewfinder image right ways up.
  • QL - A Canon designation for film cameras using their "quick loading" feature.

R to Z Edit

  • rangefinder (device) - A focusing mechanism in which two overlapping images are lined up on top of each other.
  • rangefinder base - The distance between the viewfinder and rangefinder windows on a rangefinder camera.
  • rear curtain sync - In an SLR, firing of the flash at the moment before the rear curtain starts to close.
  • rebadge - equipment rebranded by original manufacturer for sale by another distributor.
  • rebrand - equipment with name or model modified by original manufacturer for sale by same manufacturer in different markets.
  • rectepanchromatic - a different name of the orthopanchromatic emulsion.
  • red eye - an unwanted effect achievable with a flash near the lens, common with compact cameras, where eyes appear to have red dots. This comes from the flash reflecting back from the eye's retina.
  • red window - a window covered in transparent red material in the back of a roll-film camera to show the frame numbers on the backing sheet of the film and show when to stop winding. Introduced by S.N. Turner's "Bull's-Eye" camera in 1892, bought-out by Eastman Kodak in 1895.
  • Reflex - use of the taking lens (or a second, similar lens) as part of the viewfinder.
  • ring flash - a ring-shaped flash gun, designed to fit around the lens and give even lighting for close-ups.
  • Reisekamera - a type of portable view camera.
  • RGB - Red/Green/Blue - a method of representing colours in a digital image.
  • rollfilm
  • RR lens - initials of Rapid Rectilinear: a lens made of a symmetric pair of cemented doublets (also called Aplanat lens)
  • saturation - a measure of the intensity of a colour; reducing the saturation to zero gives a greyscale image.
  • seamless background - backdrop used in studio photography that does not have a hard transition between the floor and the wall. Usually paper.
  • scanning - a digital photographic method which involves the sensor physically moving back and forth across the scene instead of having a sensor encompass the entire scene. This can be employed to create digital images of film frames, prints or other static subjects.
  • scrim - a semi-transparent gauze or cloth screen used to create lighting effects
  • self-timer - A mechanism built into the shutter release, used to release the shutter after a set period of time.
  • selenium meter - a type of light meter needing no battery.
  • sharpness
  • shutter - The mechanism that opens and closes to make an exposure.
  • shutter curtain - Most focal plane shutters are composed of two curtains; a front and rear curtain.
  • shutter lag - See also shutter latency.
  • shutter latency - The delay between the moment the shutter release is pressed and the moment the shutter actually opens.
  • shutter priority - A metering method which recommends an aperture based on a selected shutter speed.
  • shutter release - The mechanism (usually a button) that causes the shutter to open and close.
  • shutter speed - The amount of time the shutter remains open.
  • slave flash
  • slow sync
  • SLR - "Single Lens Reflex."
  • snoot - a tube or cone attached to a lamp or flash unit to restrict the light, producing a spotlighting effect.
  • soft box - a diffuser built around the bulb of a photographic lamp, used to soften the light.
  • soft focus - a flattering technique often used in portrait photography that deliberately adds blur to a lens. The blur hides blemishes and smooths wrinkles.
  • soup
  • split-prism - a focus aid that may be built into a focussing screen, giving a split image which joins together when in focus.
  • Sports finder - a folding frame viewfinder.
  • spot meter
  • sprocket holes (film) - holes punched in a film to assist in moving the film through a camera or projector - particularly apparent on 35mm film.
  • standard lens - See normal lens
  • stereo and stereophotography
  • stop down - to reduce the lens' aperture - either to change the exposure, increase the depth-of-field, or, in an SLR camera, to switch from the aperture fully open (for viewing/focusing) to the taking aperture (for depth-of-field preview, metering, or taking the photo).
  • strap lugs - fittings on a camera to allow attachment of a neck or wrist strap
  • strobe
  • subminiature - a film format smaller than 24x36mm, or smaller than 18x24mm, depending on the authors
  • sunny-16 rule - A light metering guideline that says proper exposure on a sunny day is f/16 at a shutter speed that is the reciprocal of your film speed.
  • superpanchromatic - a high speed black and white emulsion with increased sensitivity to red color.
  • system camera
  • teleconverter - an add-on lens that lengthens the focal length of the existing lens.
  • telephoto - any lens longer than normal.
  • tilt and shift lens
  • TLR - " Twin Lens Reflex."
  • toy camera - An inexpensive camera usually made almost entirely out of plastic (including the lens).
  • trigger advance
  • tripod - camera support with 3 legs.
  • TTL - "Through the Lens."
  • TTV - "Through the Viewfinder Photography."
  • umbrella (shoot though and bounce)
  • VGA - a resolution of 640x480 pixels.
  • view camera - A large format camera that allows the geometric relationship between the film plane and the lens plane to be adjusted.
  • viewfinder - The part of a camera you look through when composing your shot.
  • viewfinder blackout - the time when the mirror in an SLR flips up to allow the film plane to be exposed during which the photographer cannot see anything through the viewfinder.
  • vignetting - when part of the lens or camera construction impedes on the film plane resulting in dark corners in the image.
  • waist-level finder - a viewfinder commonly found on TLRs and old SLRs in which the photographer looks down through a chimney to the image which is rendered back to front on a ground-glass screen.
  • white balance
  • wide-angle lens - a lens whose focal length is less than the "normal" length for the film format.
  • zoom lens - a lens that adjusts to cover a range of focal lengths.

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